What is Interoceptive Awareness?

Interoception is a sense that provides information about the internal condition of our body – how our body is feeling on the inside. Interoception allows us to experience many body sensations such as a growling stomach, dry mouth, tense muscles, or a racing heart (Kelly Mahler). 

Why Does Interoception Matter?

Being able to pay attention to our body cues gives us information about the body-emotion connection. Developing an ability to notice body signals allows us to connect these signals to different types of emotions – affective emotions (i.e., happy, sad, disappointed) as well as homeostatic emotions (hunger, pain, toileting). Developing the ability to pay attention to body cues is an important foundation for orienting to emotions and developing ways to support one’s needs. For example – if we feel a rumble in our stomach, we identify this as being hungry and have a snack. 

Ways to Learn to Pay Attention to Your Body Feelings & Sensations

You may try to explore some of the following activities with your child to help them begin to explore body cues –

  • Embed descriptor language about physical sensations for your child (i.e., I see your face is sweaty; eyes are relaxed)
  • Embed descriptor language about physical sensations for yourself (i.e., my face is warm, shoulders are tight)
  • Engage in “body detective” activities together by doing an enhanced sensory activity and coming up with descriptors of physical sensations. For example, shaking your hands 10 times or holding an ice cube in your mouth.

Tips for Exploring Interoception –

  • If your child benefits from visuals, you might use a body outline with key body parts labeled to help them start to pay attention to their body cues.
  • It is easier to orient to “outside” body parts (skin, eyes, muscle) as compared to “inside” body parts (i.e., bladder, stomach).
  • Consider introducing these new learning concepts during low stress situations to maximize learning opportunities.
  • Feedback from most parents is that this feels like a new skill for them – so be patient with yourself!

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